Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or AD/HD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder that involves impairments in focus, organization, motivation, emotional modulation, memory, and other functions of the brain’s management system.
With ADHD there are six main areas of impairment:

  • Difficulty organizing, prioritizing and getting started on tasks
  • Problems focusing, sustaining attention, shifting focus between tasks/multi-tasking, ‘passive reading’, excessive distractibility, selective ‘hyperfocus’
  • Problems in regulating alertness and vigilance, sustaining effort for work tasks, difficulty regulating their processing speed, problems with “getting-stuck”
  • Difficulty managing frustrations and modulating emotions
  • Problems utilizing working memory and accessing recall (difficulty holding one thought or bit of information in mind while simultaneously doing something else)
  • Difficulty monitoring and self-regulating actions

Under-activity of the brain’s management networks (executive function) is typical in persons with ADD. People with ADD often use different, less efficient circuits of the brain to do certain cognitive tasks, especially when distracted (slower, detour circuits). Their ability to assess the relative importance of one object or situation over another (coding of motivation) is impaired. This, however, is in no way related to intelligence. ADD affects persons at all levels of intelligence. Anyone can periodically have symptoms of ADD (especially when people are overtired or stressed or ill), but only people with chronic impairments warrant a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.

Many adults struggle with unrecognized ADHD or ADD. They may attribute their chronic difficulties to character faults like laziness, stupidity, or lack of motivation. A person with ADD or ADHD is much more susceptible to other psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety, social phobia, impulse control, and substance abuse. While symptoms may sometimes appear to be innocent and merely annoying nuisances to outside observers, the persistent and pervasive effects of ADHD symptoms can insidiously and severely interfere with one's ability to get the most out of life. Education, one's potential in the workplace, establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships (dating, marital relations, etc.), and maintaining a generally positive sense of self, can all be adversely affected by ADHD or ADD. 

We here at The Cairn Center believe that assessing ADHD or ADD symptoms alone is not adequate. We try to assess in what ways the symptoms are currently impairing a person’s daily functioning and whether these symptoms are substantially caused by developmental impairments of the condition rather than by other circumstances or disorders, before deciding on a path of treatment.